The White House is still looking for a deputy secretary for the State Department who will push to rein in Iran and North Korea, but its nominee for that job appears to be making a big show of opposing sanctions.
Kerry Rice, a former senior Obama administration official who has advocated a tougher approach to Iran, is expected to be confirmed Thursday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to people familiar with the process.
Rice is a leading candidate for the position of deputy secretary in President Donald Trump’s administration, where Tillerson has already been tapped for the post.
Rice, 59, has been a strong advocate for a stronger US response to the North Korean nuclear threat and a tougher policy toward Iran, according, to her nomination materials.
She is known for her fierce criticism of Iran and for advocating that the United States “lead the world to a peaceful and prosperous nuclear future.”
But she also has said that she would be willing to take on Iran over sanctions, and that she thinks sanctions alone won’t solve the country’s problems.
The position of Deputy Secretary of State is a key one.
A White House official said that Rice is “one of the top contenders for that position,” but it’s unclear whether she would become the first senior Trump administration official to hold the job.
It’s unclear what Rice’s role would be in the Trump administration’s approach to North Korea.
But it’s clear that the administration will be looking for someone who will be more than a mouthpiece for the administration, with a clear understanding of how to handle Iran and Pyongyang.
The president, who has frequently expressed skepticism about the value of the United Nations Security Council, has repeatedly signaled a desire to push for a tougher stance toward Iran.
He has also taken a hard line against North Korea and other rogue regimes around the world.
Trump, who spoke to Rice by phone on Tuesday, has praised her “greatness” and “a tremendous temperament,” and praised her work to help build a US-Russia relationship during her tenure at the State Dept.
But on Wednesday, a White House source said, the administration “is still weighing whether it wants to hire Kerry, which she has been advocating, or another nominee, which is still the position.”